When the gran-daddy of the wine school starts a class on South African wines, it begins with Nelson Mandela. Keith (our founder) was a college student “back in the day” at the break up of apartheid. He pours a taste of an amazing wine and walks down down the center of the classroom. He shares a few memories of that amazing moment in history: when democracy won the day in South Africa.
The embargo against South African wines was lifted, and soon the wine shops across America were flooded with African wines. Who could resist a winemaking country with Nelson Mandela as it’s figurehead?
The first wines were amazing. Rustic and elusive, they were bottled poetry that even a poor college student at a state school could afford. But when the bottles ran dry, South African wineries had to search high and low for more wine to satisfy the American thirst for South African wine. When all the fine wine was depleted, then the dregs were sent over.
Sadly, most Americans never tasted the great stuff, only the swill that remained. And that turned an entire generation against South African wines. To this day, most Gen Xers don’t drink the wines and Baby Boomers are largely unfamiliar with them.
And that is a shame. South Africa is one of the great wine growing countries. Their wine styles take the best of France and Australia and fuse them into something unique and wonderful. This is a country that produces stellar Cabernet Sauvignon, age-worthy Syrah, and top-flight Pinot Noir.
If you haven’t been exposed to these wines –or want to learn more about the country– then you owe it to yourself to come and experience of the best kept secrets in the wine world: South African wine.
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